It's been a while since I came back from the University of Wyoming and I have to say everything has been unforgettable. There are several times I dreamed about the old days that we raced together and coaches cheered for us. But it’s not real which made me depressed. This is the most precious pearl in my memory. I do miss skiing on the snow, like flying in the sky .There are sunshine , birds, and animals I don’t even know its name, everything is just right, as if in the magic world. Now I am busy looking for a job and graduation, but every time I think of snow, I feel very sacred, and my heart is very peaceful and quiet. I have to say that I really miss my coaches and teammates a lot. They are the most beautiful scenery in my journey. They have taught me a lot both in skiing and life. I will keep this precious experience in my heart and wish all the best for my caring people over the Pacific! Love you all!
The hardest part of being on a high is falling back down. Peaking, in a sports setting, is where you take all of your training from the previous year and use it to preform at your most optimal. Peaking can make you feel invincible in your sport, but just a few days later you can feel at your lowest. As we went into our national competition we were prepared to peak, and then to fall off our peaks, but we were met with a new low.
COVID-19 was something so far from our minds as we traveled to Lake Placid, NY. We were giddy with the excitement of competing with our teammates in a much larger stage than we had all season. Our van was full of energy, as we sat with no masks much closer than six feet. Our team got to experience the last moments before COVID changed everything together. That is something that in reflection I am really grateful for, but I still wasn't prepared for such an abrupt ending.
In the middle of our week long competition we got some news that USCSA was canceling our last race, because New York state had declared a state of emergency. I've never fallen of my peak as fast as I did in that moment. My heart sank and my head fell along with the rest of my teammates. I am lucky that I had a close knit group to experience this disappointment with, but soon I wouldn't have them by my side.
After our final race, cut a day short, we packed into a caravan of rental cars and started the long drive from New York to Wyoming. It was a tough drive that spanned too many days for me, but there were some fond memories. I found myself in many restaurants across the nation sitting with what would now be too many people. I got to hug my friends and be in public without a mask. Things still now we aren't able to do. Those were the good memories, but the second we got back home it was different. Our goodbyes were abrupt and rushed. Thinking that we would just see one another next week at practice. We couldn't quite comprehend the fundamental changes that were about to happen. So that day I said a lot of my last goodbyes and it was hard.
SUS skiers and UW skiers alike were about to go their separate ways and hunker down for a quarantine. The freshmen were even kicked out of the dorms and had to return to their hometowns. For a while it felt like I wouldn't see my people ever again, and that was isolating. Going from having twenty people that new exactly how you were feeling by your side, to just a few people that made it into your bubble was a hard transition. And while I do regret my goodbyes not being ideal I try and focus on what was happening right before we went our separate ways. I'll treasures those times and let them warm my heart for years to come.
Sprint days can be one of the most draining race experiences for Nordic skiers. While the athletes are only racing for around 1k, they could participate in up to four races that can last all day. Fighting fatigue is the name of the game, and having endurance is as important as knowing how to sprint.
I've had an ever changing relationship with sprints though my ski career. It can be fun to ski fast, but also challenging to face the possibility of not moving on to the next round. Going from the qualifier, to the quarter finals, to the semi-finals, to the finals are little wins in themselves, but your day can be ended at any point. I've never felt such a spectrum of emotions as I do on a day full of sprints.
Knowing that the stakes are so high there is a constant background stress in the athletes' heads that can be temporarily soothed from a congratulations from a coach or the privilege of moving up to the next round. During the sprints at USCSA nationals I had more than background stress. This day was supposed to be my day, something I had trained a whole year for. I was nervous in every race that I started, and I feared I wouldn't find myself in the finals at the end of the day. For one of my rounds, the quarter finals, Lydia was in my heat. I was so concerned with my own performance that looking back I probably didn't offer Lydia the support that she needed in her first high stakes sprint race. I might have been a bad teammate, but she treated me with kindness in return. After our round, with our shaky legs and ragged breathing, Lydia found me and hugged me. With her hug she told me how amazing it was to race with me. She had followed me around the course letting my coach her just like it was an extra technique practice.
I wanted to cry as she told me all of these kind things about the experience we just had together. We had spent a whole ski season together, but this culminating event made me feel more close to her than I had before. English might have been a barrier for Lydia and I, yet she was able to tell me in the most beautiful way how happy she was that we had the chance to race together.
As I reflect on this moment, I realize that Lydia showed me the importance of having great teammates. In the sprint races I was so trapped in what I was going to do, yet Lydia saw the whole picture and made sure to give me the verbal persuasion that I needed in that moment to feel confident in my own performance. Thank you Lydia for sharing that sprint race with me and giving me a pep talk that I will look back on for years to come.
The first thing you should know about Mei is she is the most selfless person you will meet. Every single time I talked with Mei I left feeling better about myself. This is because she always wants to talk about YOU. I realized after our first couple of meetings Mei knew everything about me and could list all of my family by name and I knew very minimal things about her.
One night I decided to take Mei to Front Street and have drinks and dinner with the intent that I did not talk about myself ONCE that night. Every single tidbit of information about Mei is an incredible achievement. I learned there was nothing Mei could not do if she set her mind to it. She was older than the other SUS athletes because she was in what I understood as their national guard, she boxed, she did cheer, and she would never tell you any of that because she was always so focused on the other person. But, on this special night, key lime martini in hand, I got Mei to talk about herself. We talked about big things, what we wanted in life, who we wanted to be, and the little things like practice and team gossip. We finally got to talk about her Fiancé and what her wedding would look like (some seriously wild traditions going on there, including one where the groom has to find the bride's shoes).
The coaches did their best to pair the SUS up with alike personalities on our team, and I ended up getting paired with a mentor. I realized we share so many characteristics. One of the best ones I see in myself and Mei is our ability to move to the next thing. Mei’s life has already taken so many routes and she’s able to do it because she doesn’t dwell on the past. She leaps into the next challenge, throwing herself into it full-heartedly. I often question myself and my ability to stay committed to things, but Mei showed me it’s something to be proud of, there is no shame in tackling new challenges.
I hope Mei learned something from me because I learned so much from her. I was worried our different cultures would make it hard to really connect with our partners, but I was thankfully mistaken. That night with the key lime martinis, Mei became one of my best friends, we told each other everything and laughed late into the night. Mei helped me learn just how close we are to all the people around the world, I now know I could have best friends in every country. Mei taught me so many little and big things and I will never be able to truly thank her in a way she deserves, but I hope a couple key lime martinis was a good start.
At your home race there is the opportunity for spectators. Nordic skiing, particularly Nordic skiing in America, doesn't draw much of a crowd. Sure there are a few parents that take a weekend trip, or the families of citizen racers that stand along the course, but at your home race there are spectators there for you and your team.
It's always interesting to see the crowd that follows people to their home race. There are the parents proud to see their child racing in college. The dorm roommate that doesn't quite know what's going on, but is sure to cheer loud. Even once there were members of the UW triathlon team yelling as we skied by, because they could sympathize with not being a spectator sport.
In 2020 our home race drew a whole new crowd. Since the SUS program was created through the Kinesiology and Health Department we had a small showing of faculty and other SUS masters students that found themselves bundled up on Happy Jack's trails to watch a sport they had never seen before. Being in the craziness that came with adding ten brand new skiers to a team often made you blind to what was happening outside of that bubble. It was hard to see what we were creating when we were so deep inside, but that weekend I caught a glimpse.
The picture above shows our whole family we created. SUS and UW joined together to create a new, one of a kind, team. One of the Kinesiology faculty members took the picture as parents, citizen races, students, UW and SUS alike, cheered for what we had made. Such a hodgepodge of people from all different background yet we all had found this home that connected us together. Seeing the team and the support system that surrounds us is sometimes hard to do, but it becomes so highlighted at a home race.
It was a sunny morning on January 26, and we participated in the relay race at Fraser. This competition made me very excited, because this is the first time that our SUS team has participated in the relay race. It is different from previous competitions. This relay race is 1.8km x 9 laps of skate skiing. There are three people in a team, one lap per person and then the next person. My teammates are Fredy and Dreak, we warm up together, and then carry our bags to the race venue. When we arrived at the venue, we saw that the women ’s relay race was about to start. Watching a tense and exciting game was really exciting. Maddy, Kat, and Ella were a very strong combination. They worked hard to make the game I see the blood boiling! Cowgirls are so cool! In the end they won first!
Okay, let's start our cowboys performance. I am the second player of the team and Dreak is the first player. When I saw him sliding towards me, my adrenaline soared and I went all out. Slippery, I can also see later that I tried my best on the first lap, because I was super slow LOL in the next two laps, and with Fredy's final sprint, we ended the relay race. But we did not leave, but gathered at the finish line to cheer for the last skier. After he crossed the finish line, the whole audience cheered him! I think this is the charm of sports!The team game feels different from that of the individual game. It's not so nervous, it's more exciting and happy! An unforgettable game!
The first time I felt the power of team working is in the Tetonia，1/10/2020. That's the first long distance race we attend，15classic skiing race. The weather makes the race become special and petty cold. I'm really afraid of cold. But that day I am not aware of it. When we ready to start，it began to snow，and it got bigger and bigger. The big snowflakes made us lose the direction. At that time I try to find the right track，and I heard Mei shout at me，"I can't see the track，the snow is so big". I'm ahead of her，and I shout"follow me，Mei，I can find the track". And then we skied together，when we met our coaches，Christi and Rachael，they said"good job，girls，work together". And then we know our did are right. After 5k，the snow stopped，Bur I feel pretty terrible，because my legs are so weaken. Mei said "follow me，Simona，we can do it". "Yes，I said" I just follow her，keep the same pace with her… When we finished the race，I feel very cold，and I realized the cold feeling disappear when we did the race. That's so amazing. When I follow her，I only think how to follow her，how to defeat the race. After I finished all the race，I try to recall this memory，I feel very happy，and it also make me so warm. That experience let me know the importance of team working. I think I will bring it to the career of my sport. Try to spread it with my team and my athletes. Try to let everyone had own good memory. Let them warm.
During the Thanksgiving camp in Leadville, the team had many interesting things to remember. The best memory for me is that I and the coaches have finished the 21km long loop. I was shocked and I felt funny and ridiculous. Because when I saw someone, I just blindly followed. Because I waxed my skis very late, when I finished waxing and was going to catch up with the SUS teammates, I couldn’t find them, but I saw the coaches across the street, I quickly caught up and joined their team.
I started skiing with the coaches. But I didn’t know it was 21 km and I really hoped to find my teammates after following the coaches. Afterward, I found out my SUS teammates didn’t participate in the 21 km loop. They practiced classic techniques in the streets of Leadville and returned home early to rest. The next day we still had a 5 km classic race.
Recalling the weather that day, it was very cold and the wind was very strong, like a blizzard. This is the first time I have skied this long a distance since I learned to ski and this was even farther than I have ever ran in the past. I didn’t prepare for such a long training time, I did not bring a water bag backpack. Earlier, Christi was always by my side and encouraged me, I just followed the pace of Christi. I had been trying hard to follow the big team. During the break, Ben, one of the UW skiers, approached me and handed me his water to let me drink and told me there was still a long way to go. The coaches and Ben always looked back at me, afraid I would get lost, encouraged me and asked about my physical condition. In the later period, I couldn’t keep my physical strength and fell behind, Ben let me ski in front of him, he followed behind me. He made me feel pressure behind me, I was afraid to reduce his speed, so I tried to go too fast and accidentally fell down when I increased the speed. Also Ben was tripped by me. Then I let Ben ski in front of me, he always stopped and waited for me when we are far apart. I said, “I am coming!” Ben turned around and said to me, “I know.” We kept going and met the coach who was waiting for us and we finished the 21 km together.
When I returned to the room to check the phone message, my teammates discussed me in the Nordic group, worried about where I went all morning. I felt guilty and made them worry about me. But I still think this team is very lovely and warm. This experience really made me realize the importance of communication.
Time flies, I have been here for 8months . But I still remember every happy moments with teammates, coaches in here ,especially the first camp in Nebraska. We stayed in Nebraska three days , everyday was amazing. The first day We driven about 5hours to three . it was really long for me , but not boring at all . We talked each other, watched the scenery on the rode. When we got there, there was a beautiful snowing lawn near our house . we did classic skiing, which was very important day for me . I leaned how to stride in that day. After training, we cooked together, had dinner together. It really helped team building . The second day , we did intervals uphill training ,which was very hard . Because the uphills are pretty steep, and with snowing,also we have to do 45min without stop. But everyone did their best to make it, I proud of them . In the afternoon, it was rest time ，but actually it was homework time for my American teammates, they had so many homework in college ， that’s different from Chinese college. In the night, I fished one of my goals in here. Arm wrestling with teammates :) I like arm wrestling when I was a little. In that time , my roommates were Nathan K, Trevor harry Fredy. It was fun to live with them for two nights. The third day , we did a combined race . We ran 3k and then rolled skiing 5k . For me the running part was nice , but the roller skiing part was terrible.I too nervous to use V2 . I used double pole whole race ，which was much slower than V2 . Also , in that downhill, it was super scary for me , I almost fall . But anyway, I finished the race . After race , we driven back to Laramie. From now to Review the past , it was impressive ， those moments, they will live in my heart forever
, thanks for my coaches ，teammates , everyone.
Our team has the amazing privilege of being funded by donors that care about creating opportunities for college athletes to ski. While all of the athletes work hard through hours and hours of fundraising it would mean nothing if donations weren't made for our efforts. Getting to travel around the nation to race with barley paying a penny is an opportunity that very few receive, but the members of UW Nordic know what that's like.
Every year to thank some of our largest donors we host a benefit dinner. The UW team spends all day cooking a multicourse meal for fifteen to twenty guests that have shown support for our team in the past. While being a rewarding night, it can't be done without hard work.
Preparation starts far before dinner time, and in 2020 it started almost a week before when one of my teammates Kat and I decided to take the SUS skiers shopping for dinner attire. I don't think we knew the half of what we'd be getting ourselves into, as we spend a good chunk of an afternoon sorting through clothes on racks and shuffling our SUS teammates in and out of the dressing room. It was an experience full of laughs and tired feet from trying on one too many pairs of heel, but at last we had them dressed for success.
The day of the Benefit dinner way crazy, but it was always crazy. You're surrounded by the chaos of hot pans, people running to refill drinks, and food that just needs two more minutes in the oven. In between the courses we take a moment to introduce ourselves to all of the guests. Telling them tidbits about where we're from and what we're studying. It lets our donors see who they are helping. This year our donors got to see even more though. They were helping fund a team that was hosting ten skiers from Shanghai and man they could bring a tear to your eye with the gratitude they expressed for their opportunity. It was an amazing showcase of out team, both new and old. It was one of the first times our new expanded team had been showcased, and it allowed everyone to have a moment to see what we were working so hard for.